The Government should pay for women in Northern Ireland who travel to Britain to have an abortion, a leading sexual health charity has said.
The Family Planning Association estimates that every year women who travel from the province to Britain for terminations pay in excess of £1m.
Abortions are illegal in Northern Ireland, but can be carried out in exceptional circumstances when the continuation of a pregnancy would have an adverse impact on the health of the mother.
According to the charity, last year 1,173 women from Northern Ireland made the trip to England to have an abortion. On average, women pay £900 each to cover the costs of travelling, accommodation and the procedure itself, |although some women have paid up to £2,000, the charity said.
In total, it estimates that in 2008 women in Northern Ireland going for an abortion in England collectively paid £1,550,7001.
Abortion is free on the NHS in Britain but women from here who make the decision to undergo a termination, including victims of rape, must cover the cost. Keen to address this, the FPA — the only organisation in Northern Ireland providing an impartial counselling service for women with an unplanned pregnancy — is demanding that the Government funds the costs incurred.
PUP leader Dawn Purvis has backed the FPA campaign.